Can Liverpool bounce back? A psychological perspective

By finishing second in the Premier League, the Reds have exceeded their own expectations, but they will be disappointed at not winning the title.

The Premier League is arguably the most competitive league in the world and coming second place is certainly not disastrous. However, for the heartbroken Liverpool fans and players, it certainly seems that way.

You need to look no further than the tears on Luis Suarez's face after the Crystal Place game to see the real disappointment of finishing second. The fact that Liverpool would have quite happily taken Champions League football at the start of the season seems completely irrelevant now.

Of course, the disappointment Liverpool players and fans are experiencing occurs in all sports. Think back to London 2012 and how those athletes receiving a silver medal on the podium looked miserable compared to those who got a bronze.

The cause of this bizarre phenomenon is known as ‘social comparison theory’. This is where comparing yourself to someone who has performed better makes you feel worse.

Having finished just two points behind eventual champions Manchester City, the Reds’ supporters will be forced to compare themselves to the Citizens. And in making this comparison, Liverpool fans will experience the disappointment of not winning the title and ignore an otherwise extremely successful season.

The reverse is also true: if you compare yourself to someone who did worse, then you will feel better about yourself. Take Arsenal supporters as an example of this. The Gunners fans will be quite happy to have secured the last Champions League spot ahead of Everton. Had the Liverpool players been in the shoes of their Arsenal counterparts, then their supporters would be feeling far happier at the moment despite finishing lower in the table.

However, studies have shown that the disappointment arising from coming second does offer a psychological advantage. It increases motivation and prevents against future inconsistencies. With the lure of Champions League football and financial backing of the owners, Liverpool will undoubtedly buy some quality players this summer. They will challenge for the title again next season and will be stronger psychologically.

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